As the contemporary workplace has become increasingly diverse, it is essential for employees and employers to understand their rights and responsibilities under federal and state laws. In New York, all employees are protected from employment discrimination because it is illegal for employers to discriminate on the basis of legally protected characteristics when making decisions regarding hiring, terminating, promoting, demoting, compensating, and any other terms and conditions of employment. Employers are also prohibited from retaliating against employees for filing a complaint related to discrimination or for engaging in other protected activities.
The Law Offices of Yale Pollack works with employees on Long Island and in New York City to protect their rights. We also advise employers on how to create fair workplace environments and defend them against discrimination charges.
Federal Discrimination Laws
Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits discrimination in the workplace based on race, color, national origin, religion and gender. This law established the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the government agency that is responsible for investigating employment discrimination claims. Before you file an employment discrimination lawsuit under federal law you must file a claim with the EEOC, where the matter may be resolved. If a matter is not resolved at the EEOC and is filed in court, employees who prevail in a lawsuit brought under Title VII may be entitled to back pay, attorneys' fees, and court costs, as well as damages for their pain and suffering and punitive damages.
The Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA) prohibits discriminating against any employee or prospective candidate on the basis of age (40 or older). An individual's age cannot be used as a factor in any employment decision. If you are the victim of age discrimination on Long Island and in New York City you may be entitled to compensatory damages, unpaid wages, attorneys’ fees, emotional pain and suffering and, depending on the circumstances, punitive damages.
The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) requires employers to make reasonable accommodations to enable a qualified disabled person complete his or her job-related duties. The law also prohibits employers from discriminating or harassing disabled individuals. If you work in New York and are fired, harassed or discriminated against because of an injury or medical condition, you can file a lawsuit and recover damages including back pay for lost wages, front pay for anticipated future losses, compensatory damages, attorneys' fees and, in some cases, punitive damages.
Limits on Damages
There are limits on the amount of compensatory and punitive damages a person can recover under federal law, depending on the size of the employer:
- Employers with 15-100 employees: $50,000
- Employers with 101-200 employees: $100,000
- Employers with 201-500 employees: $200,000
- Employers with more than 500 employees: $300,000
If you work on Long Island or in New York City and need to file a discrimination claim with the EEOC, you must act quickly. While the deadline is generally within 180 days of the discriminatory act, the time period is extended to 300 days because New York State and New York City laws prohibit employment discrimination based on the same characteristics as the federal laws.
Once the discrimination claim is filed in the local EEOC office, the Commission will investigate the complaint and notify the employer of the allegation. If the EEOC finds there is reasonable cause to believe discrimination has occurred, the parties can arrive at an appropriate remedy through a process referred to as conciliation. If conciliation is not successful, the EEOC may sue the employer in federal court. If the EEOC does not find reasonable cause, it will dismiss the case. The employee, however, can still file a lawsuit in federal court.
The EEOC can also refer the claim to mediation before conducting an investigation, provided that both parties agree. Mediation is an informal way to resolve the discrimination charge that relies on an independent mediator who works with the parties to negotiate a settlement. The advantages of mediation are that it avoids the cost of an investigation and that it is quicker, and confidential, unlike a court case. If mediation is unsuccessful, the EEOC will refer the charge for investigation.
State and City Laws
New York State and New York City employment discrimination laws provide employees and job applicants with greater protection than the federal laws and do not require a claim to be filed with the EEOC before bringing a lawsuit.
The New York State Human Rights Law is broader than Title VII in that it prohibits employment discrimination based on age, race, creed, color, national origin, sexual orientation, military status, sex, disability, genetic characteristics, marital status, and previous arrest record. Remedies for discrimination under New York state law include hiring, reinstatement, promotion, back pay, front pay and compensatory damages. Unlike the federal law, compensatory damages are not limited. Punitive damages, attorneys' fees and court costs, however, are not available.
The New York City Human Rights Law
also prohibits employment discrimination based on the same legally protected characteristics as the state law. The New York City law also holds owners and managers personally liable for discrimination, and the employer is responsible for his or her actions as well. There is no limit on compensatory damages, and other remedies include punitive damages, attorneys' fees, reinstatement, back pay and front pay.
How the Law Offices of Yale Pollack Handles Employment Discrimination Claims
The Law Offices of Yale Pollack have extensive experience pursuing and defending employment discrimination claims before the EEOC and The New York State Division of Human Rights, as well as in the federal and state courts. Employment discrimination claims can be difficult to prove, however, because employers often claim there was a legitimate reason to take adverse action against an employee that was not related to any legally protected characteristic. Our firm has expertise in federal, state and local discrimination laws and is familiar with the subtle ways in which employers can discriminate against employees.
If you have been the victim of unlawful employment discrimination, our firm will thoroughly investigate your claim and take the appropriate action. We also advise employers on how to prevent discrimination, and design strategies to defend any charges. Located in Syosset, New York, the Law Offices of Yale Pollack represents clients in Nassau and Suffolk Counties, Queens and Manhattan. Call our office today for a free evaluation of your case at (516) 634-6340.